How to Dye a Capiz Shell

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Things You'll Need

  • Gloves

  • Acid dyes

  • Distilled water

  • White vinegar

  • Table salt

  • Old ceramic or stainless steel pot

  • Candy thermometer

  • Canning jars

  • Paint brush with synthetic bristles

  • White nylon cloth

Capiz shells are small translucent round shells originally discovered on Capiz Island in the Philippine area of the South Seas. Dying them dates back to when the Spanish introduced Christianity to the area in the 1500s, and church building supplies were needed. They were dyed, and Spanish craftsmen fashioned them into windows, copying the stained glass principle. You can still find some of the original windows constructed from dyed Capiz shells on the Island of Capiz. All natural dyes were used to give the shells vivid colors. It's easier to dye a Capiz shell now using manufactured acid dyes.


Dying a Capiz Shell One Uniform Color

Step 1

Boil your shells in an old soup pot with one cup distilled water, one tsp. white vinegar and 1/8 tsp. table salt for 10 minutes.

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Step 2

Strain the shells from the water solution, and dispose of the liquid.


Step 3

Rinse the pot thoroughly.

Step 4

Place 2 cups of water in the pot, and turn the heat to low.

Step 5

Add 3/4 tsps. of dye powder to the pot, and stir it until a uniform color is reached.


Step 6

Add the shells to the pot. Be careful to avoid any of the dye splashing because it will stain.

Step 7

Check the temperature of your dye with a candy thermometer. Adjust the heat as needed to achieve a 185- to 200-degree Fahrenheit temperature. Stir frequently.


Step 8

For dyes that require the addition of vinegar, add it at this point. Some commercial dyes already have the acidic vinegar qualities added and do not require any additional. Refer to your dye package instructions to verify which type you are using.

Step 9

Maintain the 185- to 200-degree Fahrenheit temperature for 10 minutes.


Step 10

Strain the shells from the dye, and spread them onto paper towels to dry.

To Apply The Dye to Your Shells With a Paint Brush

Step 1

Boil the Capiz shells in a solution of 1 cup distilled water, 1 tsp. white vinegar and 1/8 tsp. salt for 10 minutes.


Step 2

Strain the shells from the water, and discard the solution. Place your shells on waxed paper to cool.

Step 3

Prepare the dye paints you will apply to the shell by placing 8 oz. of very hot distilled water and .5 oz. of dye into a canning jar. Add vinegar if required by your dye manufacturer label. Stir until the liquid is a uniform color. Repeat this process for all colors.


Step 4

Test the dye colors by dipping a clean white nylon cloth into the prepared dye. The original solution is very concentrated. If that is the color you want to use, continue painting the shell. If you prefer to use a lighter color, thin it by adding an additional half cup hot water to the solution. This will thin the dye and lighten the color.


Step 5

Using a paint brush dipped in your dyes, paint your shells on the waxed paper. When you have finished painting, place the shells on paper towels to dry.


Acid dyes are made by a number of reputable companies. Check their information about wash fastness and light fastness before choosing one. Wear gloves when handling the dye to avoid staining your hands and fingers. To renew your dye paints and use them again, heat them in an old pot over low heat.


Acid dyes are non-caustic, the acid component actually refers to a mild acid-like vinegar, but some are toxic. Check the warnings on the package before using toxic dyes on a shell used around foods or small children.



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